I would like to add something in connection with the relation between capitalism and anarchy. There is a phrase, pronounced by one of the four villains in Pasolini’s Salò, which says: “The only true anarchy is the anarchy of power.” In the same sense Benjamin had written many years before: “Nothing is so anarchic as the bourgeois order.” I believe that their suggestion must be taken seriously. Benjamin and Pasolini here grasp an essential characteristic of capitalism, which is perhaps the most anarchic power ever to exist, in the literal sense that it can have no archē, no beginning or foundation. But in this case as well the capitalist religion shows its parasitical dependence on Christian theology. What functions here as the paradigm of capitalist anarchy is Christology. Between the fourth and sixth centuries, the Church was deeply divided by the controversy over Arianism, in which all of Eastern Christianity, together with the emperor, were violently involved. The problem concerned precisely the archē of the Son. Both Arius and his adversaries were actually in agreement in claiming that the Son was generated by the Father and that this generation had happened “before eternal times” (pro chronōn aioniōn in Arius; pro pantōn tōn aionōn in Eusebius of Caesarea). Arius indeed took care to specify that the Son was generated achronōs, atemporally. What is in question here is not so much a chronological precedence (time does not yet exist), nor only a problem of rank (that the Father is “greater” than the Son is an opinion shared by many of the anti-Arians); instead, it is a matter of deciding if the Son—that is, the word and praxis of God—is founded in the Father or is, like him, without beginning, anarchos, which is to say, unfounded. A textual analysis of Arius’s letters and of the writings of his adversaries shows, in fact, that the decisive term in the controversy is precisely anarchos (without archē, in the twofold sense that the term has in Greek: foundation and beginning). Arius claims that while the Father is absolutely anarchic, the Son is in the beginning (en archē) but is not “anarchic,” because he has his foundation in the Father.
Against this heretical thesis, which gives to the Logos a firm foundation in the Father, the bishops assembled by the Emperor Constans at Serdica (343) clearly affirmed that the Son is also “anarchic,” and, as such, he “absolutely, anarchically, and infinitely [pantote, anarchōs, kai ateleutetōs] reigns together with the Father” (qtd. in Simonetti, p. 136). Why does this controversy, leaving aside its Byzantine subtleties, seem to me to be so important? Because, since the Son is nothing other than the word and action of the Father, indeed, more precisely, the principal actor of the “economy” of salvation, which is to say, of the divine governance of the world, what is in question here is the problem of the “anarchic” or unfounded character of language, action, and governance. Capitalism inherits, secularizes, and pushes to the extreme the anarchic character of Christology. If one does not understand this originary anarchic vocation of Christology, it is not possible to understand either the later historical development of Christian theology, with its latent anarchic drift, or the history of Western philosophy and politics, with their caesura between ontology and praxis, between being and acting, and their consequent emphasis on will and freedom. That Christ is anarchic means, in the last instance, that in the modern West language, praxis, and economy have no foundation in being. Now we better understand why the capitalist religion and the philosophies subordinate to it have so much need of will and freedom. Freedom and will mean simply that being and acting, ontology and praxis, which in the classical world were closely conjoined, now take their separate paths. Human action is no longer founded in being: for this reason it is free, which is to say, condemned to chance and uncertainty.

CREATION AND ANARCHY The Work of Art and the Religion of Capitalism

Giorgio Agamben

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